Last year at this time, I wrote about my commitment to learn more about the experience of African Americans, and to develop a better understanding of the history of our friends and neighbors. One of the things I researched was the evolution of Juneteenth celebrations, first in Texas, then in the south, and across the country. The announcement of the emancipation of slaves in Texas on June 19th, 1865 was the initial reason for recognizing this particular date.
African Americans in Texas began to celebrate in the following year, but soon, they were confronted with restrictions on gathering in large numbers to do so in public parks and recreation areas.
So they did something very familiar to our community. They pooled their limited resources and in several places they bought available open land specifically to hold these celebrations - and celebrate they did.
Often enough we find common cause with other communities that are vulnerable or under threat. We don’t have to look hard to find issues that are important to both of our communities. But it is both interesting and instructive to learn that at the same time or a bit before Jewish American communities were contemplating building institutions where Jews could study or practice when turned away by the mainstream, so too were African Americans - even in the first years after their emancipation - beginning to coalesce around collectively ensuring they had places of their own to celebrate freedom and learn about their heritage.
We have more in common than most of us know. Wishing our friends and neighbors in the African American community in Rockland and around the country a joyous Juneteenth celebration!
Please join us on Monday evening, June 19th for our annual meeting, 7 PM at the Rockland Jewish Community Campus, 450 West Nyack Rd. We are privileged to have one of the most exciting young Jewish leaders in the country, Arizona State Representative Alma Hernandez, speaking about her experiences standing up for Israel, fighting antisemitism, advancing legislation on Holocaust Education, helping those in need and more. You can register HERE.